Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Betty's Armenian pilaf

Back when the earth's crust was cooling, Betty Tyler was a student in my 10th-grade world history class. A quiet girl who sat in the back row, she did not want attention. But she got it anyway when she handed in an excellent but unfinished short story about a medieval maiden in distress, as I recall, and I gave her an infinite extension if only she would tell me how it ended.

For many years Betty has been news editor at Redlands Daily Facts. Redlands, a small town in southern California, is poor in medieval maidens but rich in local lore, which Betty enjoys ferreting out. She also enjoys good food and her mother's family's traditions, which come together in the recipe she kindly sent me as soon as she read about the Lenten Experiment. I like Betty's recipe style--she gives us the basics and encourages us to play.

Over to you, Betty. . .
Here's my Armenian grandmother's version of pilaf, as my mother said she learned it, with a modification or two of mine. There are many versions of pilaf, by the way, some of them with rice, which is what most Americans think pilaf is. Did you know that the original Rice-a-Roni was a non-Armenian's modification of an Armenian landlady's pilaf?

  • 1 cup noodles (coil fideo or anything you like; thin noodles seem to work best)
  • 1 tablespoon shortening (I've used oil for years, but I seem to remember melting margarine in the saucepan years ago)
  • 1 cup cracked wheat
  • 1 tablespoon salt (I probably don't use as much as a tablespoon. I don't measure it any more, but I use other seasonings, too.)
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water (I've used room-temperature tap water for years) and 1 cup canned tomato, cut up (if I'm lazy, I buy the kind that's already diced and has seasonings added; store brand is still cheap) OR 2 3/4 cups boiling water and no tomato (I always use tomato)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine (that's to add after it's cooked, and I stopped doing that years ago, because I don't need the extra fat; tastes fine without it)
Brown the noodles in shortening, stirring constantly. Then add cracked wheat and brown for a few minutes. Add water, tomato and salt and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. After cooking, add butter or margarine.

An onion may be used in place of noodles, if desired. (I've never done that, but I should try it.)

I usually add a bit of oregano and thyme and - not an Armenian ingredient - a dash of hot sauce. Use whatever you like.

This is easy, tastes good if you like cracked wheat, noodles and tomato, and is relatively cheap.

Yesterday's fare

$1 salmon filets from Aldi, leftover risotto from day before yesterday, about 38 cents' worth (plus olive oil, garlic, butter, and lemon juice) of Brussels sprouts from Caputo's, and about 10 cents' worth of sliced tomato, also from Caputo's, with leftover cheap white wine from Trader Joe's.

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